Abortion, Adoption, and the 'Right' Kind of Kids

by Jamelle Bouie

A lot of excellent commentary has come out of Ross Douthat's quasi-attempt to justify the use of poor women as baby farms for infertile elites. Jill Filipovic notes that the "good" days of widespread adoption were terrible for the women involved, as they "were shipped off to boarding houses for pregnant girls" and forced to "donate" their child to a more "deserving" family. Likewise, Amanda Marcotte highlights the deep misogyny in treating women as little more than repositories for fetuses, "whose mental health is of no more consequence than the mental health of your X-Box."

On the other side of things, a somewhat supportive Andrew Sullivan has been posting reader letters—as is his wont—on adoption and its challenges. Of all the responses, this one is easily the best:

...less than a month after we adopted our first child, our agency called us asking if we knew anyone at all with a completed home study. They had a healthy baby boy in a hospital and nobody willing to adopt him. (Agency rules didn't allow us to take him before our first was completed.) For our second, the agency tried for days to contact us around Christmas since we were the only people on the list who were willing to take him.
Why was it so hard to place them? Simple: the adoption market is built around healthy white infants. If you're willing to remove even *one* of those conditions, the waiting list is short to non-existent.


Everything about this gets a yes. A few responses complain that the adoption system is "broken," but I'm skeptical. If you want to adopt a "desirable" baby—white and healthy—then I have no doubt that the process is incredibly difficult. But there are thousands of children—infants, toddlers, older kids—who need homes, and are easier to adopt, as the reader can attest to. The difference is that they are black or Latino, and potential adoptive parents—many of them white—don't imagine themselves with a child of color.

Which is fair; I don't begrudge anyone who wants a child that looks like them, and there are real challenges to raising a child of a different race. For black children especially, white parents need to be able to help their kids navigate a complicated racial landscape. That said, with adoption as the topic du jour, let's not pretend that the situation is similar for every child from every background. African Americans account for 32 percent of the kids in foster care, and they are far less likely than white ones to be adopted. If there is a problem with adoption in the United States, there it is.

On a related note, you should read Terry Keleher's Colorlines piece on raising a black boy as a single white man.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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